Gemini Man

Technology is a huge bonus for science fiction films. Every year sees a movie grabbing any new technological advance in order to aid its story. ‘Gemini Man’ has made boasts about its use of de-ageing wizardry. Featuring the lead actor as younger/older versions of himself which mostly works. Unfortunately the same can’t be said of a plot as derivative as more poorly made productions.

Government assassin Henry Brogan (Will Smith) is looking to end his long career. His retirement plans are thwarted when a mysterious person attempts to kill him. Discovering his assailant is a younger cloned version of himself, Brogan seeks answers. He thinks he may find it with Clayton Varris (Clive Owen). The sinister head of a deadly organization, Varris holds the fate of Brogan’s life in his hands.

Ang Lee directs ‘Gemini Man’ with a leaden hand. It’s strange why he should as works such as ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ found him soaring with his imagination. ‘Gemini Man’ is the opposite. Cliched, uninspired with unmemorable action scenes, we’ve seen it all before. The gimmick of ‘Will Smith doubles’ generally works although the meagre plot drags any gains down.

Not even the performances can lift ‘Gemini Man’ from the doldrums. Smith and his co-stars are fine even if they convey little passion. Whilst Ang Lee is a gifted director, he has trouble eliciting forceful performances. Everyone is going through the motions with stunts occasionally enlivening a pedestrian screenplay.

Whilst technology has pushed sci-fi films and TV into other realms, it sometimes adds little. ‘Gemini Man’ offers an enfeebled plod through a catalogue of science fiction tropes. Story is always the key as it unlocks a world of wonder that ‘Gemini Man’ sadly lacks.

Rating out of 10: 5


‘Joker’ takes its cue from downbeat 1970’s Hollywood films. Often intense character studies, these stayed in the memory such as Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’. ‘Joker’ owes much to that movie as it has the same grimy, hard-hitting feel plus its lead actor Robert DeNiro. It’s not what you’d expect from a comic-book adaption, but ‘Joker’ revels in striking out in ways that would make its comic character laugh with glee.

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a comedian looking for his big break. Getting nowhere despite his talents, Fleck’s frustrations sees him turn to crime. Painting his face with clown-like features, he renames himself Joker. One of his targets is Murray Franklin (Robert DeNiro). Chaos quickly ensues with Gotham City’s residents cowering in fear at the self-dubbed ‘Clown Prince of Crime.’

Todd Phillips directs this daring version of Batman’s well known adversary. Like its subject, ‘Joker’ crashes through the screen with anarchic force. This is almost entirely due to Phillips’ astute direction and Phoenix’s magnetic performance. He morphs into the psychopathic killer with steely precision. Every movement feels exact as Fleck descends into a maelstrom of madness.

Those familiar with the non-stop action of the Batman films may be disappointed by ‘Joker’. It’s more of a psychological thriller than the usual comic-book film. That’s a very good thing as the script’s unpredictability effectively mirrors Fleck’s haphazard life. From the costuming, music and general tone, ‘Joker’ is sure to stir debate but linger long after the credits roll.

‘Joker’ has already caused controversy but is well worth seeing. Phoenix shows his acting skills with ease, as does DeNiro. Future films in this genre have their work cut out in matching the atmosphere of this character study of a truly disturbed individual.

Rating out of 10: 8